Gary Player’s role as one of the greatest South African sporting ambassadors and the 50th anniversary of his career Grand Slam achievement will be celebrated during a golf day in his honour in Soweto next weekend.
The Sunshine Tour will partner with the City of Johannesburg to recognise the most impressive career in South African golf history at Soweto Country Club on Saturday 15 August. The funds from the day will be used for the further development of Soweto Country Club, which Player helped design.
Vincent Tshabalala and several of Soweto’s legendary golfers will join Player at Soweto Country Club in what is also his 80th birthday celebration with the community. Player turns 80 in November.
“Gary Player is an icon of world sport, not only golf. He has been one of South Africa’s greatest sporting ambassadors for decades, earning the commendation of Nelson Mandela for his efforts in using his status in golf to try and help bring about unity in South African sport,” said Selwyn Nathan, Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour. “Soweto Country Club is the perfect venue for us to celebrate his vision with the very people whose lives he helped try change.”
When speaking about Player, the great Nelson Mandela said, “Because he is a professional golfer who spent much of his career performing outside South Africa, Gary Player was always perceived as being one step removed from the world of politics. Yet few men in our country’s history did as much to enact political changes for the better that eventually improved the lives of millions of his countrymen. Through his tremendous influence as a great athlete, Mr. Player accomplished what many politicians could not. And he did it with courage, perseverance, patience, pride, understanding and dignity that would have been extraordinary even for a world leader.”
As one of only five golfers in history to have won all four Majors in his career, and still the only non-American to do so, Player’s Grand Slam achievement has this year been celebrated worldwide – from the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club to the historic links of the Old Course in St Andrews.
But Player said a heartfelt tribute on the humble fairways of Soweto Country Club and with the golfers whom he shares a special bond ranks as one of his greatest highlights in a historic year for golf.
“This has been an incredibly special year for me. I have shared memories all over the world. But when a man comes home to his people and is shown this kind of love, that is what puts a life and a career into perspective,” he said.
During his career Player has won more than 165 tournaments worldwide, including nine Majors on the regular tour and nine on the senior tour. He is the only player to have won the career Grand Slam on both tours. His Grand Slam on the regular tour came at the age of 29 with his victory in the 1965 US Open. He was at the time only the third player in history to achieve this feat, following Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods achieved this after Player.
Player’s philanthropic efforts have seen him establish The Player Foundation and the Gary Player Invitational series of charity tournaments, which are played around the world on an annual basis. Since its establishment in 1983, The Player Foundation has raised more than R600-million for underprivileged children worldwide.
MIchael Vlismas Media